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It Started in Naples
Fluffy, innocuous, and worthy of note only to the most devoted fans of Clark Gable and/or Sophia Loren, It Started in Naples is a featherweight romantic comedy with very few laughs and very little actual romance ... but Italy sure was pretty back in the 1960s, wasn't it?
Gable plays Michael Hamilton, a Philadelphia banker who arrives in Italy to settle the affairs of his recently deceased brother, but of course there's a hitch: namely, a rascally 8-year-old boy named Nando ... which makes the disinterested Mr. Hamilton an unwitting uncle. Fortunately, little Nando also has an aunt Lucia, as played by the criminally curvaceous Sophia Loren. Michael wants to take the boy back to Philly, especially after he sees the kid scamming tourists and handing out nightclub invites at one o'clock in the morning.
Aunt Lucia, for her part, is an open-minded and permissive free spirit, a woman who clearly adores her young nephew, even if she might not be providing a perfect role model for the boy.
So we've got a handsome chap, a gorgeous woman, and a little kid who needs affection and supervision. Take three guesses where It Started in Naples is headed.
Taken as a time-capsule travelogue of Italy (and specifically the island of Capri), It Started in Naples works pretty darn well. But the flick's just way too aimless and fluffy to work as a captivating piece of storytelling. Since it's painfully obvious from only the first fifteen minutes that Uncle Mike and Aunt Lucia are going to end up deeply in love under the Italian skies, that leaves a lot of running time to fill. And, unfortunately, much of that running time is filled with piffling chit-chat and lots of sightseeing.
Ms. Loren does contribute a few magnetic musical sequences, and Mr. Gable (in his second-to-last film) manages to dole out some of his trademark charm, but there's simply nothing here to hold on to. The idea that Michael will ultimately sue Lucia for custody of little Nando is given ample lip-service and screen-time, but this subplot seemingly exists only to delay the happy ending and fill a languid third act.
Directed by 1960's rom-com veteran Melville Shavelson, It Started in Naples is a pretty-yet-wholly-forgettable little affair; it seems as if the cast & crew were treated to a wonderful working vacation in Italy, but the resulting movie in so transparent and inconsequential ... it'll evaporate from your frontal lobes before the end credits stop rolling.
Video: As expected from a Paramount catalog release, the movie is presented in a rather lovely Widescreen (1.85:1) Anamorphic transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono, with optional subtitles available in English (and with all the heavy Italian accents, those subtitles might come in handy!)
Extras: Not a one. I'd expected at least the original theatrical trailer, but I guess nobody could dig it up!
It's a quaint and pretty old movie, to be sure, but it's also more than a little boring. Gable seems a bit bored by the project, and the only real sparks of life come during Ms. Loren's (too-few) dancehall sections. Still, if you're a fan of the old-school early-60s romantic comedies, you might find a lot more to like than I did.